With just a month and a half left in the season, it's time for owners to start preparing themselves for the stretch run. For some of you, that might mean that you'll have to take more risks than you're used to. If you are still hovering in the middle of the pack or lower this late in the season, you will have to make some drastic moves to get back into the race.
That may include dropping players that aren't getting the job done, even if you've relied on them all season. I don't know about you, but if I'm within striking distance of the leaders and still have some ground to make up, I'm not going to be waiting around for someone like Wilson Chandler to get his act together, and I'm certainly not waiting around for someone like Luol Deng to figure out whether he's going to play again this season. Adam Madison covered this brilliantly in Thursday's "If You're Hardcore," and I'd like to echo his sentiments on cutting bait on Greg Oden, Monta Ellis and Deng.
Unfortunately, the trade deadline has already passed in most fantasy leagues, so the only way you can improve your squad is through the waiver wire. With risk/reward in mind, let's take a look at some of the riskier investments that may still be available on your waiver wire:
Tyrus Thomas, PF, Bulls (39.4 percent owned): It's kind of hard to believe that T2 is owned in only 39.4 percent of ESPN.com leagues after he dominated in February to the tune of 15.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.9 blocks while shooting 48.8 percent from the floor. Now, I know that sometimes these percentage-owned statistics can be somewhat misleading (with dead leagues and all), but Thomas is a must-own for anyone who needs to make up ground in steals and blocks quickly. Thomas' main problem in the past was his inconsistency, and I've been burned by him in the past, but he seems to have put that in the rearview mirror and is now producing on a regular basis. He's still somewhat risky (thanks to Brad Miller's arrival), but the reward far outweighs the risk at this point.
Joakim Noah, PF/C, Bulls (58.4 percent owned): Noah and Tyrus Thomas have been great pickups for a while, but many owners dropped the two youngsters based on the anticipated arrival of Brad Miller. Big mistake. You've already seen what Thomas has done, but Noah has been equally impressive, with 8.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 0.6 steals and 2.0 blocks over his past five games. Like Thomas, there is a risk that Miller will start to cut into Noah's production, but his potential in rebounding and shot-blocking is too great to leave hanging out on the wire. Give him a shot, particularly if you need help on the boards.
Larry Hughes, SG, Knicks (11.4 percent owned): Hughes has been a hot topic in fantasy circles lately with 22.3 points, 3.7 assists, 3.0 steals and 3.0 3-pointers over his past three games. I'm still not completely convinced that he'll keep this up, but he has two things going for him right now. First, he's playing for Mike D'Antoni, and we all know how D'Antoni's offense can transform mediocre players into fantasy superstars. Second, he's really starting to feel it right now, and with only a month and a half left, his hot hand just might continue the rest of the way.
Jamario Moon, SF/PF, Heat (62.7 percent owned): It took him a little while, but Moon has finally earned himself a starting gig for the Heat. Anyone who owned Moon last season knows that he can be incredibly valuable for his potential in steals, blocks and 3-pointers, so he's looking like a must-add now that he's won over head coach Erik Spoelstra in Miami. Since taking over as the starting small forward three games ago, Moon has averaged 14.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.0 3-pointers. He hasn't done much on the defensive end, but there is little doubt that he'll be racking up the steals and blocks in no time. Get him now if he's still available.
Dominic McGuire, SF, Wizards (2.3 percent owned): McGuire doesn't get a lot of attention because he's not flashy and doesn't score much. But owners who don't need scoring should not write him off because he can contribute in multiple categories, particularly on the defensive end. The 23-year-old has been seeing more and more playing time for the dismal Wizards, and he's made the most of his opportunity with 8.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.2 steals and 2.2 blocks over his past five games. With little left to play for, do not be surprised if the Wizards continue to give McGuire plenty of run the rest of the way. Those needing help in steals and blocks should certainly consider adding him for the stretch run.
Andray Blatche, PF/C, Wizards (4.1 percent owned): I've been a little disappointed in Blatche's progression this season, but I haven't given up on him just yet. With the Wizards looking to the future, I would imagine they'd want to give him a ton of minutes going forward. Blatche has a heck of a lot of upside if he can get his game straight. He has averaged 11.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 1.1 blocks per game as a starter this season, and figures to match or top those numbers the rest of the way.
Rashad McCants, SG, Kings (14.0 percent owned): Don't look now, but McCants is starting to get some decent run for the 13-49 Kings. McCants has always had potential as a scorer and 3-point shooter when given the minutes, but he's never been good enough to secure consistent playing time. That's why Sacramento is such a great spot for him right now: They don't need him to be good, they just need to evaluate his talent. With the youth movement in full force, McCants has had two consecutive solid games with 18.5 points and 2.0 3-pointers over his past two games. He's a nice flier for those looking for a boost in points or 3s this late in the season.
Thabo Sefolosha, SG/SF, Thunder (2.0 percent owned): I told you to keep a close eye on Sefolosha after the Bulls sent him to Oklahoma City, and he's already made his presence known with 10.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 0.8 blocks and 0.7 3-pointers in six games with the Thunder. His ability to create steals at a high rate is his claim to fame, but Sefolosha can also be a versatile fantasy contributor with the ability to fill the stat sheet with blocks and 3-pointers as well. He'll undoubtedly take a hit in the scoring department once Kevin Durant returns to the lineup, but he's going to see plenty of the court the rest of the way as the Thunder assess whether Sefolosha is to be their shooting guard of the future.
DeAndre Jordan, C, Clippers (0.2 percent owned): Jordan is valuable only when either Marcus Camby or Zach Randolph is missing in action, but look out if the Clippers actually decide to let this kid play toward the end of the season. He's been ridiculously productive on the boards and in the shot-blocking department when he's been on the court. Just take a look at his averages as a starter this season: 9.2 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game in nine starts. This is exactly the kind of sneaky, high-risk pickup that can win head-to-head championships in the final few weeks of the season, because I have a feeling that either Camby or Randolph (or both) could be shut down once April rolls around.
Brian McKitish is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.